NFL News & Analysis

How the Buffalo Bills can replace Stefon Diggs and improve their wide receiver corps

2TATCA2 Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze (1) runs a route during an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship against Oregon, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Las Vegas. The Huskies won 34-31 to win the Pac-12 football championship. (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)

• No more Stefon Diggs: The Buffalo Bills traded Diggs away, leaving a glaring hole in Buffalo's wide receiver room.

• Replacing Diggs: The Bills have multiple options in their attempt to replace Diggs, which include trading for a veteran, trading up in the draft for a top receiver or staying put and selecting a receiver when they are on the clock late in the first round.

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The Buffalo Bills traded away star receiver Stefon Diggs in a deal that is very hard to see as part of a designed plan. Without relitigating the trade value, it’s impossible to argue that receiver is not an acute need for a team that expects to be contending for a Super Bowl as long as it has Josh Allen at quarterback.

With free agency largely done and dusted, the Bills don’t have an endless list of options to get an immediate impact player, but they do have several different directions they could choose to go in.

This article will explore each of these.


There’s no No. 1 receiver option available to sign as a free agent. Buffalo’s top receiver right now likely doesn’t even play wideout. Tight ends Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid or even running back James Cook could all be seen as the primary receiving option over incumbent receiver Khalil Shakir or new addition Curtis Samuel

The 28th overall selection in the draft may be enough to trade for a top receiver. The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t been keen to trade away Tee Higgins after placing the franchise tag on him, but they may not have had an offer that features a first-round draft pick to turn down, either. Higgins isn’t coming off a good year but has shown in the past he can be a No. 1 option even without Ja’Marr Chase on the field.

Similarly, the San Francisco 49ers seem keen to retain Brandon Aiyuk, but they likely haven’t seen that resolve tested with a trade offer featuring a first-round selection. Aiyuk averaged 2.65 yards per route run last season, and Tyreek Hill was the only receiver in the NFL with a higher PFF grade. In each case, the Bills would need to factor in the contract that they would have to re-sign that player to, but Hill, Diggs and A.J. Brown have each shown the potential benefit recently to that kind of deal if they could make the deal happen.

Go big or go home

This draft features a receiver (Marvin Harrison Jr.) who is seen as the best prospect to come into the draft in years, maybe as far back as Calvin Johnson (2007). Harrison is also not a lock to be the first receiver off the board, as plenty of analysts have LSU’s Malik Nabers as a better player. Washington’s Rome Odunze is generally seen as the third-best of the group but is at least in the conversation with the other two as a “big three” of this class and in many other years would be the first receiver off the board.

The Bills are a long way from the top 10, where all three players are likely to get drafted, but Atlanta once jumped from No. 27 overall to No. 6 to draft Julio Jones, who was also the second receiver off the board that year.

This would be an outrageously expensive and gutsy move to make — the receiver drafted basically needs to be Julio Jones for you to have any shot of the trade making sense, but the top players in this draft are at least being talked about in those terms.

The deal cost the Atlanta Falcons No. 27 overall, their second and fourth-round selections that year as well as a first and fourth-round pick the following year.

One other key difference between this draft and the 2011 draft is that this year’s group of receivers is significantly deeper. After Jones, there was a massive dropoff in talent and the subsequent options were nowhere near as strong as they will be this year if Buffalo has more patience. 

Rationally, it would seem crazy for the Bills to get this aggressive, but it would be one of the biggest moves of the decade if they came out of this draft with Marvin Harrison Jr. if a team chose Nabers instead. 

Identify your guy

In truth, No. 28 overall is not a bad spot to need receiver help in this draft. It is a phenomenal receiver class with a whole array of players that will likely be able to make an immediate impact available at the tail end of the first round and into rounds two and three. 

Even if the consensus “big three” is a step clear of the field, if Buffalo identifies the fourth-best guy they like, they are in a reasonable position to trade up to secure him.  They could also simply just play the percentages and stay where they are to take the best receiver off the board when their pick rolls around. 

Adonai Mitchell, Ladd McConkey, Xavier Worthy and Troy Franklin are receivers five through eight on the consensus board, and all are within the top 40 overall. Any of the group would make sense with that first-round pick and could easily be an impact player right off the bat. 

The Green Bay Packers model

Chasing need in the draft is an uncomfortable position to be in. Certain positions have a better strike rate than others, but no position can guarantee an immediate return and a quality player, and if the team needs that player to hit, they are rolling the dice and sacrificing value at the same time.

A way of maximizing the chance of an immediate contributor is to double or even triple dip at a position of need within the same draft.

Take Green Bay’s approach last season. With little in the way of proven impact receivers and no tight ends at all, they spent five picks on pass-catchers, including two second-rounders and a third-round selection. 

Injuries limited his impact, but had the Packers simply placed all of their eggs in the Luke Musgrave basket last season, their receiving corps would have been a mess, but instead Tucker Kraft and Dontayvion Wicks‘ contributions were critical to their development, with fifth-round pick Wicks arguably the best of the rookies, certainly rivaling the impact of second-rounder Jayden Reed.

The Packers hit on most of those selections judging by their debut seasons, but even if they had hit on one, and he had been anything other than the top pick, it shows the value in hedging when you need immediate impact.

The Bills have 10 draft picks and an acute need at receiver. They could do worse than spending three of them on wideouts, as well as shopping in the priority-free agent group.

Spending picks No. 28 (1st round), 128 (4th) and 160 (5th) on receivers this season could see them come out of this draft with Adonai Mitchell (Texas), Johnny Wilson (Florida State) and Tahj Washington (USC) even just using the closest player on the consensus big board to that pick number.

Even in abstract terms that looks like a nice haul, and there’s no guarantee that Wilson or Washington wouldn’t prove to be the more immediate success.


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